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Be careful what you eat when HIV positive

By Faeza
22 June 2017

By Clement Fana Ntuli

FOR many people, being HIV positive causes a loss in appetite and this is mainly common in people who are at an advanced stage of HIV. But this can slowly be reversed with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). It is advisable that you try to eat any food to ensure you at least have something in your stomach if you don't have an appetite. With this being said, there is food you must do your best to avoid.


Yes, I understand that you might not have an appetite and are only keen on eating sweets and chocolates. What you are eating has very little nutritional value, if any at all. You are no different from someone who is not eating at all. Even though this is the only food that you feel like eating, it may cause you more harm. Due to their nature, sweets and fatty foods will only cover your digestive tract. Our bodies do not get any nutrients from these foods and as a result, they close the villi in the small intestine, which are instrumental in food absorption. Consequently, even if you eat something nutritional, it will pass through

your digestive system without being absorbed.


So, you add more chillies and spices to make your food edible since you don’t have an appetite. Spicy food may give you the urge to eat, yet on the other hand may lead to some complications. Your digestive system has villi, which are instrumental in getting nutrients from your food into the blood. The linings of the villi are frail. They are made worse by the presence of HIV, which destroys cells. The moment you add chillies and spices to your food, you may further damage the lining of the villi. As a result, you won’t be able to absorb nutrients into your body. In addition, spicy food may trigger diarrhoea.

Chillies often cause a running stomach if taken at a high dose and diarrhoea will make you lose weight. Therefore, avoid spicy food until your immune system has recovered.


While it is important to eat, especially when you are HIV positive, you need to be very careful what you eat. Not everything that you eat is good for you. Some of the foods may cause or trigger complications. Moreover, it is important to note that your lack of

appetite, which is driving you to eat sweets, fatty foods and spicy foods is due to the HIV.

Treat the underlying cause so that you can strengthen your immune system, regain your

appetite, keep the lining of your villi intact and have control of your life. Once you start taking your ARVs, you will slowly and gradually achieve healthier eating habits. I once thought it was impossible, but I did it. You too can do it.